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in the silence, in your arms

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It’s always a Friday night that takes Vito to Henry's place: A nice little neighborhood, far away from the hustle and bustle of Empire Bay, far enough to keep him out of harm’s way- After all, there are still folk who carry a grudge for what happened, who want nothing more than Henry six-feet under. 

(And there’s only so much a protection program can offer.)

But there’s always an underlying sense of relief that he’s kept with him, even after all these years, a feeling that sweeps him up every time Henry opens the door.

The routine never changes. Dinner is cooked. Wine is poured- Vito's the better one at choosing the perfect vintage to go with their meal. They sit, eat as the radio croons softly in the background.

Words are exchanged: The current state of their lives, the state of the world (the real world, not the shadowy underground they know), until the topics spin further out of hand and wind them up laughing over some joke that was only funny fifteen years ago.

“You know,” Henry says, leaning next to the sink as Vito washes up. “I always think to myself what I’m gonna do if some punk rolls up, shoots me on my own fuckin’ doorstep.”

Elbow-deep in soapsuds, Vito pauses. His gaze strays to the window above the sink.

(For a moment, he is stepping out of the car, Joe at his side.

The old man on the front lawn blinks when Vito calls his name, his birth name, his dead name-)

“Jesus Chr- Would you shut up?” Hands move automatically, scrubbing the dishes a little harder than before. “Listen, Henry, that ain’t gonna happen.”

“Who you trying to convince? Me- Or you?”

Vito ignores him. He doesn’t like to think about it- The roles reversed, the irony of how it might deal out should Henry's prophecy come true. 

He thinks that if they both don’t think about it, nothing will happen.


 

(The sun is beating down on his back. Joe's shouting at him to come over, hurry before he’s gone, and Vito almost trips over his own feet as he scrambles towards the others.

Henry  looks like a butcher’s special, raw and bloodied. His stomach roils, momentarily, before those old army instincts kick in. He can’t tell where one wound ends and another begins.

“Oh, Christ,” Joe groans. “Henry-”

He’s not moving. Vito can’t feel his pulse. Henry's gaze is fixed on a point in the distant horizon, but when Vito turns to look, there’s nothing there-

And of course there won’t be. Of course. 

The knowledge of death rushes at him the same time a noise builds in his throat-)

He wakes with a barely-contained gasp.

The room is dark. Beside him, Henry shifts in his sleep, the bed springs creaking with each tiny movement.

Calm down, Vito tries to tell himself. Moving slowly as not to wake the other man, he gets up. Calm down. 

Dreams mean nothing. He knows you cannot possibly change what happened so many years ago, but his hands still shake when he pours himself a drink in the darkened kitchen. 

(-Henry's panicky breathing, grasping at Vito's sleeve. Vito can see him try to speak, but all he can produce is a bubble of crimson at the corner of his mouth-)

That’s history. He drinks slowly, each swallow measured, until the glass is empty. History that ain’t going to be  repeated.

“Vito?” There’s a click! before the kitchen is thrown into the light. 

He squints at the sudden change of brightness, momentarily putting a hand up to his face until his vision adjusts. And when it does, he can see Henry standing before him, sleepy confusion written all over his face.

“Just needed a drink,” Vito says. “Go back to sleep.”

“Hey, you alright? Your hands don’t look so steady.”

“Too much wine.” He cracks a smile, but Henry doesn’t smile back.

In the stark light, he can see the reminders of what happened to Henry: The permanently blinded left eye, the numerous scars across his arms, his throat, white against tan, testaments to events that were perhaps always bound to occur.

(Henry's screams split the air as Vito and Joe bolt towards him, surrounded by assailants. The glint of butcher knives catches the sunlight-)

“It was a dream,” Vito admits, quietly. “Just a bad dream- The usual, y’know?”

“I know. I know.” 

Henry steps towards him. It must seem ridiculous, Vito supposes. Two grown men in their underwear, holding each other in a kitchen straight out of a home decorating catalog. 

But Henry's arms are strong, like Vito remembers. He can hear that old heart beat in his chest, he can feel each breath Henry takes.

This is real. see? Real and safe as houses.

Does it matter that it’s a lie? It should. Vito knows it should.

But in the silence, their arms around each other, nothing matters. 

Vito closes his eyes, and dreads the moment he will have to let go.